And then came Divisional elections. I had been advised that if I wanted to give and get the most out of the Board I should stand for a Division. And so, given that I spend a good proportion of my time being ‘International’ I thought that I might have something to offer there.
The voting system and the fact that no-one knew me were obstacles but perhaps the biggest barrier was the notion that I hadn’t earned my stripes yet; that because I was new – irrespective of the experience I brought to the Board – I had less to offer than the Deputies that had been around a while or even a lifetime. Unsuccessful in that round, I looked elsewhere for areas where I could get involved.
The Women’s Group welcomed me as did BODSA (Board of Deputies Social Action) and I’ve enjoyed being able to get stuck in and contribute. But I still hadn’t taken the plunge and spoken up at Plenary. Until Sunday. I reckoned that if ever there was going to be a debate on a topic I cared about and knew a lot about, this would be the one.
Before the Board Meeting proper, there was a meeting of the Women’s Group and a presentation from Nicky Goldman of LEAD about setting up a mentoring scheme for Women Deputies. The Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership research had found that 38% of women don’t have the confidence to lead and that there were a range of strategies that could address this, of which mentoring was one that had had great success in other settings. One experienced woman Deputy in the meeting – whose day job required a great deal of oratory – told us that the only time that she’s nervous about speaking in public is when she goes up to the microphone at the Board Plenaries. Not a great ad or confidence booster when I knew that that could be me in the next hour or so.
But when my name was called, I walked up to the mic, waited my turn and got to have my say – without a wobble in my voice I’m glad to report. And, as other blogs have indicated, there was a marked shift to the ‘minhag’ of this Plenary with much more supportive cheering and only a little boorish jeering; mostly clear instructions about proceedings and some streamlining of the bureaucracy.
Lao-tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I made my first step on Sunday, and in voting for Grow, I believe that the Board has taken its first step in a genuinely productive partnership with Oxfam.
Just don’t get me started on the open and secret microphone issue…
A real change in conduct by Daniel Grabiner
Oxfam, Grow: NGO. Do we do it, yes or no? by Gabriel Webber
Live steaming – good, twitter abuse – bad by “Abu Sassy”